Gwyneth Kate Paltrow was born in Los Angeles in 1972. Her father was TV producer Bruce Paltrow and her mother, stage and screen actress Blythe Danner.
It seemed only fitting that her parent’s show business links would pass onto the young Paltrow - who showed an early interest in following their career path. Yet her parents initially tried to dissuade her and after briefly studying art history at the University of California, Paltrow soon declared her independence and discontinued the degree in favour of acting.
Her first ‘grown-up’ role was in an unsold TV pilot, somewhat unsurprisingly directed by her father. Through her sultry ‘American blonde’ looks, Paltrow managed to carry off a serene air of professionalism and intelligence. Rather than rush head first into any acting role that flew her way, she opted to select her parts more wisely and consider a variety of low-budget or independent films.
Paltrow settled in Manhattan with her family and spent the summers watching her mother perform at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which is where she made her debut treading the boards in 1990. A year later she was seen for the first time on the big screen in the film ‘Shout’ with John Travolta.
Mother and daughter worked together on stage in a production of ‘Picnic’ in 1991, followed in 1992 with ‘The Sweet Bye and Bye’ and ‘The Seagull’ in 1994.
Paltrow’s family connections proved fruitful for her follow-up film role. Having Steven Spielberg as a godfather can’t do you much harm in the acting industry and she was able to thank ‘Uncle Morty’ for giving her the part of young Wendy in his 1991 film ‘Hook’.
Next followed Paltrow’s chance to show off her natural ability to perfectly mock any accent, playing a Texan con artist in ‘Flesh and Bone’ in 1993. The film wasn’t a box office success and Paltrow still remained relatively unknown among her peers.
Minor acclaim was achieved in ‘Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle’ (1994) and in the Merchant-Ivory production of ‘Jefferson in Paris’ (1995), but it was director David Fincher who would hoist Paltrow up from the bottom rung of the Hollywood ladder into the A-list stakes.
Fincher took a chance on Paltrow and cast her as Brad Pitt’s wife in the 1995 hit ‘Se7en’, alongside Morgan Freeman. The film was a huge international success among critics and audiences alike and was also a hit for Paltrow’s personal life when love blossomed on set between her and Pitt.
Pitt and Paltrow’s high-profile relationship lasted three years, culminating in a sudden split during their engagement. She has since been quoted as saying she regretted leaving Pitt and was in a “mess” during their time together.
After a disappointing critical response to the 1996 comedy ‘The Pallbearer’, Paltrow solidified her growing reputation by starring as Jane Austen's heroine in the big-budget adaptation of ‘Emma’ (1996). Paltrow’s flawless British accent went down a treat but despite whispers of possible accolades hanging in the air, the Academy failed to nominate her.
Following the limited success of ‘Great Expectations’ in 1998, Paltrow took on a role once filled by Grace Kelly’s shoes in the remake of Hitchcock’s ‘Dial M For Murder' - 'A Perfect Murder’ (1998). Also featuring Michael Douglas, the film failed to light up the box office charts, and it still seemed that Paltrow was going to have to work even harder to truly capture the affections of her critics.
It was to be Paltrow’s penchant for British-speaking parts that was to finally seal the envelope on her success. ‘Shakespeare In Love’ was THE film of 1998. With an all-star cast that included Dame Judi Dench and Geoffrey Rush, the romantic comedy - based on a fictional account of Shakespeare writing Romeo and Juliet - won seven Oscars and three Golden Globes. Most notably it was a certain Miss Paltrow, later torn to pieces for her tearful acceptance speech, who won a Best Actress Oscar and at last achieved international stardom.
The media enjoyed cooking up a storm on a matter aside from Paltrow’s emotional Oscar’s night when she embarked on another public courting of a co-star in dating Ben Affleck (the two had met on ‘Shakespeare In Love’). The paparazzi feeding frenzy that ensued soon put paid to any true love blooming and the couple decided to go their separate ways later that year.
Reaching a career peak, success continued in Anthony Minghella’s ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ in 1999. The dark drama made $80 million worldwide and allowed Paltrow the chance to demonstrate her ability to play to both comedic and straight roles, knowing she finally had the world’s attention firmly focused on her.
‘Duets’ (2000) played close to Paltrow’s heart as it was directed by her father and gave her the opportunity to showcase a secret love of singing. She performed all of her on-screen songs herself.
After co-starring with ex-flame Affleck in ‘Bounce’ later the same year, Paltrow enjoyed a quirky cinematic year in 2001 starring in two ‘off the wall’ films. Working with acclaimed directors The Farrelly Brothers (known for ‘There’s Something About Mary’ and ‘Dumb & Dumber’), Paltrow starred with Jack Black in the comedy ‘Shallow Hal’ in which she was required to don a 200-pound fat suit!
By contrast, the role of Margot Tenenbaum in Wes Anderson’s hilarious dark comedy ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ saw her excel as a deadpan character. The film had a top-notch cast including Gene Hackman, Angelica Houston and Ben Stiller and accumulated a collection of award nominations, including a Best Screenplay Academy Award nod and a Best Actor Golden Globe win for Hackman.
Interestingly, Paltrow was quoted in 2006 as saying that she divided her role choices into films she made for love and films she made for money. The more obviously commercial ‘Shallow Hal’ she named as falling into the money category, whereas ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ was purely taken through love of the script.
2002 would change Paltrow’s life dramatically. After turning 30 in September, her father Bruce died of pneumonia just days later. Bruce had been suffering from throat cancer but his death came as a huge blow to Paltrow who in many ways idolised her father. Two weeks later, she started filming ‘Sylvia’, the dramatisation of the life of poet Sylvia Plath. The part could probably have not come at a more significant time as it likely gave Paltrow the silent opportunity to mirror her own loss via Plath’s depressive persona.
There was to be a positive outlook in 2002 too though, all thanks to Paltrow’s decision to attend a concert performance by the British band, Coldplay. Coldplay had reached a career peak and the hype surrounding them had spread as far as the Hollywood Hills, enticing Paltrow to see the band play live herself. Rumour has it that Paltrow was so impressed by the gig that she went backstage afterwards to meet lead singer Chris Martin and ask him on a date.
After just one year, Paltrow and Martin married in a secret wedding ceremony in California and their daughter, Apple Blythe Alison Martin, was born five months later. Apple Martin’s naming sparked a media furore. Paltrow later commented on Oprah that she and Martin had chosen the name because of the pure and innocent nature of apples.
Following the birth of Apple in 2002, Paltrow made fewer appearances on the big screen, choosing to dedicate her time to family life instead. However, the same year saw her star as Dixie Normous in ‘Austin Powers in Goldmember’ and the British romance ‘Possession’. ‘View from the Top’ and ‘Sylvia’ followed in 2003 before Paltrow attracted award recognition.
An MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss nomination came her way in 2004 when she starred in ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’ alongside Jude Law, with whom she shared the accolade. She also received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress nomination for her role in ‘Proof’ (2005). A modelling contract with Estee Lauder followed the same year.
Paltrow and Martin’s second child was born in April 2006 and was named Moses after a song Martin had written in Paltrow’s honour. The same year saw Paltrow appear in three movies including ‘Love and Other Disasters’, which she followed up with 2007’s ‘The Good Night’. Unfortunately, Gwyneth and Chris separated in 2014.
Paltrow’s decision to work with director Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr in American superhero film ‘Iron Man’ (2008) was a wise move as the blockbuster was not only a box office hit, but also went down well with critics. She got four award nominations for her role as Iron Man's assistant in the film and the sequel, which was released in 2010. Her latest films include 'Contagion' (2011), 'Thanks For Sharing' (2012), 'The Avengers' (2012) and 'Iron Man 3' (2013).